Tips for Owning a Pit Bull
So you adopted a dog from MPR (or plan to adopt one) and want to make sure you will do things right to ensure the best possible relationship with your dog. Here's a few tips that should help you start on a good note.
MPR recommends to never leave a Pit Bull outside unattended
Pit Bull dogs are the number 1 targets for thieves and people with bad intentions. Leaving a Pit Bull outside alone is like leaving a diamond ring on a restaurant table. Chances are it won’t be there when you come back...
In addition, Pit Bulls are incomparable escape artists and can get out of the best fenced yard if they set their heart to it. They are social animals and many of them won’t resist the temptation to explore the neighborhood if they realize they have been left alone. A Pit Bull running lose is at great danger. And remember, If the dog does anything wrong during his or her escapade, (ie: cause a car accident by crossing a busy street) YOU will be held responsible.
When you are not home to keep an eye on your dog, he or she should be safe inside the house, in a large comfortable crate or in separate room if you have other pets.
MPR recommends to secure your fence if needed
Even if you don't leave your dog(s) outside when you're not home we recommend that you "Pit bull-proof" your yard. This means making sure all gates secured properly closed (many responsible Pit Bull owners don't hesitate to put a lock on their gate), and that you regularly do a walk through to make sure no holes are being dug under the fence, or part of it is broken, etc.
If you have a low fence (5 foot and under), running an electric wire all around may be necessary to ensure top security. Many Pit Bulls are fence jumpers or climbers - Some will dig under and some will chew their way through.... In many cases, a Pit Bull will need to be kept on a cable outside if you have a low fence.
MPR recommends to always keep your Pit Bull on a lead when out of your fenced yard, and to never take a Pit Bull to areas where other dogs run loose
While you may think you know your dog and that you can control him or her well, you certainly don't know the dogs you may encounter in off-leash areas, much less control them. Remember that if anything bad happens, the Pit Bull will most likely be blamed, which will only add to the bad reputation of the breed. Our favorite lead: Weiss Walkie (Very secure and perfect for strong dogs that tend to pull).
MPR recommends to remember that your Pit Bull may not always get along with other dogs
He or she should be able to live with a familiar dog of the opposite sex if you are breed savvy, but most Pit Bulls will develop a certain degree of dog-aggression as they mature, especially towards dogs they are not familiar with. It's not their fault and its not "how you raise them". It's how the breed was created. Please review the Breed Info page for more information on this subject.
MPR recommends that you don't encourage your dog to become protective
A good Pit Bull will defend you if you are seriously threaten but a normal Pit Bull should always enjoy meeting new people. You can nurture this trait by handing treats to your visitors and asking them to give it to the dog. Same if you take your dog in public. The best thing you can do to help Pit Bulls in need is to show people how friendly and fun-loving these dogs are so more people are willing to adopt one.
Remember that Pit Bulls are known to be "enthusiastic greeters". It's a trait of the breed that is very much part of their charm. You might warn your guests to be ready for a few kisses.
MPR recommends to use a squirt bottle for corrections
And keep a few handy in the house when there is a need for correction - Avoid using your hands in a negative way if you want to maintain a good relationship with your pets. A squirt of water in the face usually works great to remind a dog that a certain behavior is unacceptable - Don't over spray though! Show the bottle as a threat with a look that means it, and only when needed. Spray the dog if he is really pushing it. The dog should make the association quickly.
MPR recommends to crate your dog when unsupervised
MPR dogs are crate trained immediately after being transferred to foster care. We use large and extra-large wire crates. Our favorite is Life Stage dog crate - Model 1648 Size: 48 L x 30 W x 36 H" and Model 1642 Size: 42 L x 26 W x 28 H".
Dogs are den animals - A crate is a safe den. Wolves "crate" their youngsters when they go on a hunt by keeping them in the den. Leaving the pups free to roam at will would mean a sure death. The den is a safe place that insures the survival of the pack. By crating our dogs we emulate a natural behavior they are comfortable with.
The crate however, should never be used for punishment. It is used when the puppy or adult cannot be properly supervised and only in a positive way. Keeping toys and treats in the crate will help assuring the dogs enjoy their time. Eventually, your pet will consider the crate as a “den” and will go in it on its own for rest or for solitude. Many people prefer large or extra-large "wire" crates. Dogs feel less confined in a wire crate and are able to stretch. Collapsible crates can easily be moved from room to room.
Furthermore, crating is a great way to housebreak a pet. By instinct, dogs will not eliminate in the area in which they sleep. (This is if they can help it. Sometimes a dog cannot control his bowel movements due to intestinal parasites, digestive issues or other circumstances. Urinary tract infections are common with dogs and will cause them to urinate more frequently. Make sure you have a veterinarian examine your dog if they are repeatedly having accidents in their crate before concluding that it is a behavior problem.)
As a responsible Pit Bull owner, you should be aware that a crate is essential to a happy household if you have Pit Bulls and other pets. You should never leave your Pit Bull out with other animals when you are not there to supervise them. It is well known that Pit Bulls can and most likely will develop a certain degree of animal aggression at some point in their life. Fights can happen with every breed, but Pit Bulls were bred to never quit. If you are not there to break up a potential fight, you could come home to a devastating situation.
Keep treats near the crate and always give one to the dog when he or she goes in. That way your dog will associate the crate with something pleasant.
Crate are used to make the relationship with your pet a happy and successful one. You can avoid the need to correct your dog if he has done nothing wrong during your absence. You can save that time for positive activities such as play or training. You won’t have to come home to a house that has been chewed on, pooped on, and thoroughly destroyed and your dog will not end up relinquished to the back yard. Voila! Peace of mind for everyone!!
MPR has partnered with PawDiet to provide important recall notifications on dog food brands (see the widget on the left).
MPR recommends to follow the NO FREE LUNCH (NFL) PROGRAM
Especially when you first get the dog. The NFL will help you establish leadership and prevent behavior problems, dominance, aggression, etc.
Anything we get in excess, regardless of how much we like it, loses value over a period of time. If you really like ice cream and indulge in a bowl daily, you might look forward to that as your special treat each day. But if you ate ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all your snacks, at some point you would not consider ice cream to be very special.
Anything we have access to anytime we want it, loses its value as a reward. When you go to work, you know that at the end of the pay period you will receive money for the time and energy of your working, your paycheck. You could say that money is our reward for working. But, if you could go out into your backyard and pick money off of a money tree anytime you wanted it, how long do you think you would continue to go to work for your paycheck?
Because they are not only applicable to humans, but also apply to dogs, the two above concepts become very important to anyone that is trying to resolve a behavior problem that their dog may have. The big difference lies in what is perceived as valuable and what is perceived as a reward.
A dog is much like a 2 year old child in his perception of value. Both only put value on the tangible of the moment and only if they perceive the need at that moment. If they are hungry or if the food being offered is thought of as a special treat, it has value. But again, if they have just had two or three hamburgers and are full, the juiciest hamburger has no value.
One thing that most dogs put value to is physical contact with their owners or anyone that they care about. This contact is often in the form of "petting". It can also be in other forms such as leaning on, jumping on, mouthing, or any form of their body touching our body. Many dogs also value other types of attention from their people such as eye contact and verbal interaction. But, if your dog controls these types of interactions, their value is going to be diminished.
The NO FREE LUNCH program means the dog must earn the attention it gets. Instead of diminishing the value of contact with your dog, you are going to increase its reward value. If the dog presents itself for petting, ask him to do something for you first. That something may just be to "sit". As soon as the dog does sit you can pet him. But now it is your idea, and not his. It is helpful to also keep the petting to a brief interaction. Make sure the dog understands you are also controlling the amount of attention and duration of petting. In other words, keep the value of the petting high by doling it out in small quantities instead of flooding the dog with the petting. Give him a stroke or two and quit. If he wants more, again ask him to do something for you before you resume petting him. KEEP CONTROL!
If you have another dog and adopt a Pit Bull (or plan to adopt).
MPR recommends to separate the dogs when no one is able to keep an eye on them. All dogs can fight but remember, Pit Bulls were bred to never quit. If you are not home to intervene quickly in the event of a conflict between the dogs, it could degenerate into something serious.
MPR recommends to control triggers. Pit Bulls should never have free access to bones, food or treats. Toys and attention can also be a source of conflict. Keep in mind that certain dogs tend to push out any competition for what they perceive as limited resources - your attention, food, toys, etc.
MPR recommends to supervise roughhousing. Dog are like kids. It can start as a game but quickly escalate into a conflict. When it comes to a "fighting breed" we can't let the dogs work things out on their own. Time-out for everyone may be necessary if the dogs are getting too riled up.
MPR recommends to be aware of redirect aggression. This type of aggression is often misunderstood by humans and may occur more frequently than we may believe. A dog that becomes excited by outside stimuli may redirect their response to another pet. Two companion dogs restrained behind a fence and triggered by a squirrel on the other side for example, could attack each other. Redirected aggression is not uncommon with Terriers.
If you have young children and adopt a Pit Bull (or plan to adopt)
Remember that "you" are the leader of the pack. It is YOUR responsibility to control the dog(s) around the children. Kids are often too young or too small to be taken serious as a leader in the eyes of a big powerful dog. You need to make sure the dog understands however, that YOU will not tolerate rambunctious behaviors that could hurt the children. This works the other way around too. Do not allow the kids to be brutal with the dog. Teach the kids to treat the animals with love and respect.
Remember that dogs cant express with words when they are irritated. They can only talk "dog"; Growl, snarl and bite. The kids need to understand from the get go that dogs are NOT toys.
Don't hesitate to involve the children when you feed the dogs. They can be the ones that put the food in the bowl for example. Of course, don't let the kids tease the dog with food or play in the food bowl while dog eat. Again supervision is key. Read additional info: Kid-proof your dogs; dog-proof your kids. If you are an owner of a dog that belongs to a 'dangerous breed' category and you also have a small child please take this as a warning. Don't leave your dog with the child unattended under any circumstances.
MPR recommends using SOLID leashes and collars
Pit Bulls are very strong and were bred to have a high pain tolerance level, especially in the neck area. They need solid and sturdy collars that wont break under tension. It would be terrible if you couldn't hold your dog back from a dangerous situation simply because you didn't have the proper tool.
Do NOT use snap-lock collars with a Pit Bull - Two-Ply Nylon or leather buckle collars are recommended.
Note that if you have a Pit Bull and another dog in your home both of them should wear their collar at ALL time. If ever a conflict was to strike between the dogs, solid collars will facilitate breaking the fight.
The Weiss Walkie (pictured here) is a great tool for dog guardians who want an easy, dog-friendly way to walk their dogs. The Walkie is immediately accepted by dogs - no training necessary. It is very secure and the design incorporates principles of canine physiology and psychology to quickly and humanely stop pulling. It wraps around your dog’s barrel and attaches to your dog’s buckle collar. When the dog pulls, the Walkie applies slight pressure around the dog’s barrel – and dogs naturally decrease forward movement. The pressure around the chest also serves to naturally calm and relax the dog, to decrease arousal – very helpful for the dog that is easily excited. More info Here.
"Gentle Leaders" (GL) also work great with strong powerful dogs that pull hard on the leash. MPR recommends them as they help establish positive leadership and provide good control. Remember that a well behaved Pit Bull in public will help improve the image of the breed. We suggest using a regular collar in addition to the GL until the dog is used to it. GL collars should only be used when the dog is on-leash.
The key to being a responsible Pit Bull owner is foreseeing problems BEFORE they occur! The only way to make other people see that Pit Bulls are good dogs is to put our dogs in situations where they cannot fail! Please do not use tough looking devices such as “junkyard chain” and spike collars to walk your Pit Bull in public. The goal of every responsible and caring owner should be to change the public image of Pit Bulls by showing them as being kind and gentle dogs who deserve to live in our homes and communities